Last week for fishers to reel up grouper
AMI recreational fishers, prepare for a last chance to catch grouper until April.
Starting Feb 1, all grouper will be closed for recreational anglers for two months in state and federal waters.
And the bite is going strong in depths of 40 to 50 feet. Frozen sardines, threadfins and squid have been producing keeper gags. Some fishers even opt to bait their hook with squid and a sardine at the same time.
Inshore, redfish, black drum and sheepshead are still the mainstay, although good numbers of spotted sea trout are beginning to show in the local bays.
Capt. Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters reported limits of gag grouper up to 34 inches on his offshore charters. Best bait was half a frozen threadfin dropped to the bottom.
Moving inshore, Genthner has been catching sheepshead up to 5 pounds on live shrimp. He’s also been targeting and catching redfish and black drum on the east side of Sarasota Bay.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier reported the sheepshead bite is in full swing. Fishers using sand fleas for bait are getting the best results and sheepshead up to 4 pounds. Fiddler crabs and shrimp also are producing decent catches.
Other good catches on the pier include gag grouper and a lot of spotted sea trout. Gags up to 28 inches are being caught on pinfish, while the trout are being caught on peeled shrimp on Doc’s Goofy jigs. Medley added fishers targeting bottom fish are reeling up a lot of southern stingrays.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle said he had good reports from wade fishers during the negative tides. Most said they were catching spotted sea trout and redfish as well as the usual suspects — including ladyfish and lizardfish. Using artificial baits, such as soft plastics on a 1/8-ounce jig head, has been productive. Root beer, new penny and chartreuse have been the colors of choice. “Don’t forget to work your bait slow due to the cold-water temps,” Keyes added.
Offshore reports coming into the store included catches of gag grouper, mangrove snapper and sheepshead. Frozen sardines, squid and live shrimp are the baits of choice there.
Capt. Warren Girle reported fishing offshore ledges at 40 to 50 feet of water. Catches included limits of gag grouper up to 27 inches, as well as mangrove snapper, sheepshead and Key West grunts. Frozen sardines and threadfins the choice bait for the grouper, although live shrimp have been working well for the sheepshead and grunts.
Moving inshore, Girle said he fished a couple of different schools of redfish in Sarasota Bay with good results. Catches of 18-20 reds have been the norm with just as many spotted sea trout. Targeting docks and canals in Sarasota Bay resulted in catches of sheepshead and black drum.
Ken Davis at Rotten Ralph’s on the Historic Bridge Street Pier reported catches of sheepshead and redfish caught on frozen shrimp. “Most of the sheepshead are being caught on frozen shrimp,” Davis said. “Although sand fleas and squid have been a decent alternative.” Fishers targeting redfish have been using live shrimp in addition to frozen sand fleas. “A lot of redfish caught were keepers,” Davis added.
Capt. Mike Greig reported fishing all backwater charters resulting in catches of pompano, sheepshead, trout and black drum. Greig said most of the catches were produced with live shrimp and pompano jigs.
Greig added, “I’m looking forward to some warm springtime weather.”
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters said weather around Anna Maria last week was all over the spectrum with moderate days and then cold days and he had some advice for dealing with the changes: “Use it to your advantage.”
Howard said he had some “speckled trout in 3 to 4 feet of water chewing on live shrimp rigged under a popping cork.”
Howard said redfish can be found around oyster bars and deep docks, while sheephead populations are increasing in Anna Maria waters around docks and pilings, and will increase as we get further into the winter season.
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